Tuesday, May 24, 2011

PA School - Lessons from Week One

People on the train are happier.

One of the things I do not miss about living and commuting in DC is the traffic. Traffic makes the Metro necessary and the Metro is inhumane.

I don't mean to say that the Metro robs one of individuality, forcing one into cattle herd action. Though it does.

I don't mean to say that the conditions are insufferable, like when the a/c goes out at 4:30pm on a friday afternoon in August and you'd rather swim in the Anacostia than continue to be pushed up into the armpit of your fellow Washingtonian who insists on holding the upper handle bar after running past everyone on the escalators just so he could work up a fresh(er) sweat. Though it is.

No. The Metro lacks the kind of humanity where strangers become friends, even for just a few minutes. Where people move their bags on a full train to allow another rider to sit down. It misses eye contact and friendly smiles with people who sit down or pass by. But when these same riders ride the train -- they are human once again.

Train-riders offer you their paper in the morning. They share information with strangers about late, broken down trains. They laugh. They offer directions. They joke with the conductors by name. They (mostly) respect the Quiet Car.

The train is civilized. Transportation from a more refined era. It has a cafe car...so what if the white table cloths and Cary Grant are no longer waiting for me there. I can still see it that way.

Perhaps it is the stability of a train rather than the incessant swaying and jerking of a light rail that brings out their humanity. Or is it the fresh air? The beautiful scenery? Maybe because train riders regularly escape the city they are kept sane and thus, humane.

In any case, what I have learned from the first week of PA school is that I like being back in DC. - oh, and school, of course. I like having expensive new toys (and soon, an expensive new education) with purpose and I love that I am one of those happier people that ride the train.